Ten Indian Culture Tips for Tourists
Indians are well known for their hospitality. Don’t be surprised if strangers approach offering help and advice and even food. It may offend the Indian sentiment if gestures of hospitality are ignored or refused. However accept any friendliness only from trusted sources as frauds and cheats are a menace to tourists.
Get used to curious stares and questions
It greatly arouses the curiosity of the average Indian to see a foreigner and many do not think it bad manners to stare at tourists. It is best to totally ignore gaping eyes and pass it off as part of the great Indian culture.You might also find yourself confronted with questions, even personal ones from total strangers. Here again the Indian curiosity is to be blamed. Be cautious to keep conversations with strangers cordial without delving into personal details.
Superstitions and Beliefs
Indians are a superstitious and religious community with a million bizarre beliefs. Don't be surprised if you spot queer practices on your tour of India.
Open display of affection
Any form of physical contact between the sexes is a total no-no in public places in India. It is uncommon to see even married Indian couples in affectionate embraces in the open. It would do good to adhere to this norm just to avoid even more curious stares and probable unwanted comments.
In India it is a common practice to remove footwear outside the door while visiting a house. The same is true while visiting temples, churches and any other places of worship.
Indians are conservative in their dressing sense. The Indian attire is sari or salwar kameez for women and dothi or trousers for men. It is rare to spot people dressed in short and tight outfits or western wear other than in the metro cities. Clothes are cheap in India and it would be a wise idea to travel light and purchase dresses from Indian Bazzars.
Indian food is hot and spicy. Check on the menu and the ingredients before placing orders at restaurants especially if you are allergic to certain food. If you wish to play it safe you can choose to dine in restaurants serving Western food. Never trust food sold in platform stalls or packaged drinking water sold by road side vendors as these are sure to be contaminated.
Eating with hands
Don’t be shocked if you find people eating with bare hands in India. This is the customary practice across the country.
The Indian gesture of saying hello is Namaste. Keep both palms pressed together at chest level and say Namaste to greet in the Indian style.
Covering the head
It is a common practice for women of several Indian communities to cover the head with the sari or a scarf as a mark of submission or respect.
While it is good to know these tips, you might find that most of these are obsolete especially in India’s metro and industrial cities where even Indians do not adhere to these norms. However, if your travel plans take you deeper into the heart of India, knowing these do’s and don’ts of Indian culture will guarantee your visit stays incident free and memorable.
The Lonely Planet guidebook on India is an insightful book to help tourists. You can buy a copy here.
Lonely Planet India (Country Travel Guide)
Enjoying India is another useful book to aid tourists. Click below to order your copy.
Enjoying India: The Essential Handbook
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